QUITO (Reuters) – Business heir and millionaire Daniel Noboa will become Ecuador’s president on Thursday, where he faces the challenge of fixing economic woes and tackling spiraling violence attributed to drug trafficking gangs.
Noboa, 35, won a runoff vote in October on promises to restore security and create jobs in the South American country, which has faced economic challenges since the coronavirus pandemic, pushing thousands to migrate.
Violence on the streets and in prisons, blamed on criminal groups by outgoing President Guillermo Lasso, has spiked in recent years, as they move drugs from Colombia and Peru through Ecuador’s ports. The attacks reached an unprecedented crescendo with the murder of presidential candidate Fernando Villavicencio.
Noboa will serve as president for just 17 months, finishing Lasso’s term after the latter brought forward elections to avoid likely impeachment.
It will be hard for Noboa to effectively tackle Ecuador’s significant challenges during his truncated term, analysts said, though he can run for re-election in 2025.
Noboa is the son of Alvaro Noboa, a powerful banana baron billionaire who repeatedly failed to win Ecuador’s presidency. The incoming president will mark his inauguration with a speech to the national assembly and may propose a tax reform bill or a security law the same day.
“I hope Daniel Noboa is a committed, honest president who doesn’t steal, who focuses on the issues of insecurity and the economy,” said Jose Viteri, 31, who works at a Quito car parts importer.
Noboa has already toured the United States and Europe to sound out investors and lenders, but has warned he will balance meeting foreign debt obligations – totaling some $47.4 billion – with Ecuadoreans’ needs.
He has said he will create incentives for businesses to increase employment, cut taxes on construction, establish a new intelligence unit, supply tactical weapons to security forces and house the most dangerous criminals on prison boats, among other pledges.
Violent deaths in Ecuador could exceed 7,000 this year, a homicide rate of 35 per 100,000 people, according to a recent report from the Ecuadorean Organized Crime Observatory.
Noboa has yet to fill numerous cabinet positions. Though he originally named Sariha Moya as his incoming finance minister, he said on Wednesday she will instead direct the planning secretariat. He did not name an alternative finance minister.
Last week, Noboa agreed a legislative coalition with the conservative Social Christian Party (PSC) and Citizens’ Revolution, the party of leftist ex-President Rafael Correa, which is likely to help push his reforms through.
Ecuador expects economic growth of 1.5% this year and 0.8% in 2024.
Some 323,000 Ecuadoreans are unemployed and informal work accounts for more than 50% of the economy, according to official data.
(Reporting by Alexandra Valencia; Writing by Oliver Griffin)